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Screening Language development in children

This topic covers information about Screening Language development in children

Language Assessment tool

The language assessment tool is a checklist that has been developed with the main objective of collecting information regarding the speech and language development. The checklist has been mainly developed for the use with children having developmental delay/mental retardation. However, it can be used in general to obtain information on the development of speech and language in the children.

The checklist contains items across the age ranges from birth to three years. The checklist has both receptive items and expressive items. The items are incorporated based on the speech and language development of normal children. That means most of the children developing normally as per age show the speech and language behaviors as listed in the tool.

The responses can be recorded by the parents and significant others from observation of the child in day to day activities/real life situations and also when possible by evaluating the child. The responses for each item can be recorded as Yes/No/Not sure. Both verbal and non-verbal responses can be recorded particularly in expressive items.

The tool can be used mainly to know information on whether the child’s speech and language development is normal or whether there is any delay. Upon using the checklist with a child, if responses like ‘No’ and ‘Not sure’ are recorded for certain items and/or a delay is noticed across the age ranges, it may indicate that there could be some problem with the child’s speech and language development and immediate help may be sought from a qualified ‘Speech and language pathologist’.

A qualified ‘Speech and language pathologist’ would use specific diagnostic tools and assess the child’s speech and language development and diagnose the problem if any and would also provide therapy for the speech and language problems / development.

Utility of the tool

The tool can be useful in the following ways:

  • To understand the development of speech and language in children.
  • To screen the speech and language development in children especially in those where the delay/problem in the development is suspected.
  • To screen the speech and language development in the children by parents and significant others as early as possible so that professional help can be sought when there is a delay.

Items of language assessment tool

Sl.No.Receptive (R)Expressive (E)

(0-1 month)

Baby is often quietened by vocalizations.

Baby shows response to random familiar/friendly voice

(1-2 months)

Frequently the child gives direct attention to others voice. Specify the responses. Eg. Cessation or change of activity

Exhibits differentiated crying. Eg. Has a special cry for hunger.

(2-3 months)

Regularly localizes the speakers by staring.

Laughs and uses other vocal expressions of pleasure.

(3-4 months)

Usually is frightened or disturbed by angry voices. Crying or ready to cry

Babbles regularly or repeats series of some sounds, especially when alone.

(4-5 months)

Responds to his/her own name

Expresses anger or displeasure by vocal patterns other than by shouting or screaming.

(5-6 months)

Stops or withdraws in response to ‘no’ at least half the number of times.

Plays and makes pleasurable sounds and noises while alone or with others (cooing responses)

(6-7 months)

Responds with appropriate gestures to such words as come, up, high, bye-bye etc.

Uses voice sounds to get attention of others.
8. Appears to recognize the names of some common objects when their names are spoken by looking at them. Uses some speech like vocalization appears to be naming some things in his own language.

(8-9 months)

Appears to understand simple verbal requests with gestures.

Eg. Come, give I will take biscuits etc.

Plays games like pat-a-cake or peeka-boo with others. (Check with the games appropriate to the language or mother tongue of the child)
10. Sustains interest in looking at toys or objects, when talked about. Uses some gestures such as shaking head for no.

(9-10 months)

Often gives toys or other objects to the parent on verbal request.

Vocalizations or utterances contain more consonants than seen at the 6 months stage.

(10-11 months)

Now and then can follow simple command like put that down, where is the ball, without gestures.

Seems to be speaking in his/her own language by using appropriate intonation pattern as if asking questions, giving answers or demanding.
13. Comprehends questions such as How does a car go? How do you drive a bullock cart and responds by miming. Speaks first words like dada, mama or name of a pet or a toy.

(11-12 months)

Demonstrates understanding by making appropriate verbal responses to some requests.

Eg. Bye-bye, Namaste etc

Can express the existence of other persons by pointing to them and naming sometimes upon request.

(12-14 months)

Seems to understand that the speaker is angry, tired, happy, sad etc.

Uses more than 3 words with some consistency.

Comprehends names of principal body parts and points to them when asked.

Eg. Head, stomach, eye, cheeks etc.

Asks for desired objects by using vocalizations along with gesturing or pointing.

Comprehends simple commands that call for action or verbalization and responds with action or vocalization.

Eg. Bring the ball, wipe your face, don’t touch.

Starts naming objects, eatables and animals in baby talk forms.

Eg. Bow-bow, bikki, mum-mum.


(14-16 months)

Recognizes and identifies many objects or pictures of objects when they are named.

Starts using two word utterances expressed limited semantic relations. Eg. Object+action-ball give, toy play. Agent+action-mama come, daddy go possessor+possession my doll, my shirt.

Comprehends question forms by pointing to self/others.

Eg. Whose shirt is this? Whose pencil is this?

Expresses disappearance by using words such as gone, tata, bye bye etc.

(16-18 months)

Carries out two consecutive directions with objects upon requests.

Eg. Put on the lights & close the door, put the book away and bring the ball.

Names more family members and five body parts.

Eg. Brother, sister, uncle, aunt, finger, nail, eye brows, etc.


(18-20 months)

Comprehends questions querying actions of agents and responds by naming the action.

Eg. What is the girl doing? - eating What is the dog doing? - Barking, bow-bow. What is the boy doing? - Sleeping.

Uses simple imperatives such as more, throw for action on the part of adults.
22. Demonstrates understanding of distinctions in personal pronouns in commands such as give it to her, give it to me etc. Imitates environmental sounds such as of motors, animals during play.

(20-22 months)

Comprehends indirect questions that are commands or suggestions.

Eg. Did you bring it? Can you give him?Will you give for the baby?

Uses same words/phrases to different things/activities.

Eg. Uses amma to call mother, as well as to indicate her disappearances.


(22-24 months)

Comprehends which questions and responds appropriately.

Eg. Which book? Which aunty?

Child starts using what/ who questions to elicit naming interacting partners.

Eg. What is this? Who is this?


(24-26 months)

Understands complex sentences. Eg. When we go home, I will give you a chocolate.

Refers to self using his/her own name.
26. Understands more number of finer body parts, such as cheek different fingers, neck etc. Expresses denial: Eg. That is not glass. I did not do it.

(27-30 months)

Comprehends why questions by giving reasons.

Eg. Why do you want pen? Why are you crying?

Asks help for some personal needs like washing hands after going to toilet etc., by using words or words with gestures.
28. Understands size differences, by correctly selecting short tree, tall tree, small pencil and big pencil etc. Expresses concepts such as quantity-another, all, little time, later, now, big, small etc.

Demonstrates understanding of most common adjectives.

Eg. Pointing to all tall/short man, fat/thin lady,fat/thin man etc.

Refers to self by using by (his/her) proper name.

Can comprehend post position words in instructions.

Eg. On , under, behind, in front etc.

Can tell correct gender when asked are you a boy or a girl.

(33-36 months)

Can comprehend questions querying imaginary situations. Eg. What will you do……………..? (If you are a thief, if you are a teacher.)

Is able to count up to three objects.

Source: National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (Divyangjan)

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